We are in Hong Kong. It is hot, humid and sticky. It is the weekend of the Hong Kong Art Fair and this last week has been full on with heaps of exhibition openings, dinners and parties. The big boys have been moving into town, making big statements with their galleries and on the periphery, little galleries are opening up everywhere, hoping for a tiny slice of the pie. I guess the world is suffering from its financial crisis and the new money to be made is in the newly made millionaires of China. And Hong Kong, as the doorway to trade, is very friendly to business.
White Cube in Connaught Rd opened on Tuesday with the work of German painter, Anselm Kiefer : ‘Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom’. It was by RSVP and invitation only, but it was absolutely chokkers with the best champagne flowing and in truly magnificent spaces with ultra clear daylight lighting. White Cube only arrived here a few months ago but its presence along with the Gagosian and Ben Browne have made a significant change to the HK art scene, transforming it into a major cultural city of the arts with the quality of the gallery exhibitions and spaces on an international scale. I hope they can afford to stay as many of the arts people say that HK would not be able to sustain them. This exhibition of Kiefer’s work is interesting because it explores Mao’s Long March which although is in line with his historic interest and political agenda, seems irrelevant to his own experience. His figures of Mao feel like stiff naive add ons and unrelated to the sad brown fields of flowers and dying grasses, which were actually based on a spring trip to the Auvergne region of France. I find his use of photography as his background to his heavy impasto slashes of paint disturbing to the integrity of the painterliness of his work, expecting to see the depth from paint, not print, uncertain of whether this is a quick, easy effect or whether his technique has value to the surface. And the visible lines of the stuck on print bothers me, technically breaking up the coherence of one canvas in an uncontrolled way – controlled by the medium of the size of the print. Nevertheless the works are monumental and effective in the space, particularly with his sculptures of leaden books on bicycles.
The same Tuesday night, the Gagosian opened with its own exhibition of Andrea Gursky. People were making the route from White Cube to Gagosian and tempers were high as they piled up in the foyer and out into the street of the Pedder building waiting for lifts to come down to take them to the 7th floor. It was a huge almost frenzied turnout. A lot of people made the steep climb up seven stories of building site obstacles to get to the exhibition. On the previous night, Monday, Ben Browne Gallery in 301 Pedder building, opened with Italian artist, Alghiero Boetti, an influential Italian artist from the Arte Povera movement in Italy.
Wednesday night. The Art Fair Vernissage. It was an exciting year this year. There were quite a few more of the big galleries in the Fair. Lots of amazing old contemporary art, it was like being in a museum, with Picassos, Calders, Wesselman, Leger, Warhol, and then there was some great new art too. Also lots of dots. There were a number of incidences of other artists taking the mickey out Damian Hirst’s dot series, funny really and after all he doesn’t own polka dot copywrite….yet. We had some favourite experiences. One was a French Gallery called Gallerie Jerome de Noirmont. We fell in love with a wall of photographs by Pierre et Gilles, iconic photographs, unique and over painted, from the 60’s and 70’s. Beautiful and lush. The gallery assistant, Anais Ferrier, was completely delightful, spending the time to talk with us about the work with real love and passion. In fact, another gallery too, had the same effect on us because of the gallery assistants – Michael Hoppen Gallery from London. This last gallery was a photographic gallery and we overheard a young assistant talking to a woman with great passion for the work and for the artist who was now dead, describing the artist’s ouevre in detail. It was like being mesmerized by a great story teller. Michael actually went up to him and congratulated and thanked him for loving the art form and the artist so much. It is what we dream of, having someone sell our work with such a love and passion.
Amongst several other gallery openings we attended was the new Sothebys commercial gallery opening in One Pacific Place, a huge 7.2 million US dollars 15,000 sq foot space, taking the entire floor. It had a show of Yayoi Kusama’s painting and sculpture – it was very dotty(!) and in one of the other rooms some golden pieces, a Picasso, a Chagall, a Henry Moore, Monet, Pissaro, Leger, Bonnard…. wow. It was amazing to be there. There were diamonds on show too but these were the least interesting to us. It has been an art experience of the last few days equivalent to visiting a great European museum.